Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is scheduled to visit Hanoi from October 18 to October 20 as part of his first ever overseas trip, indicating that Vietnam is an important part of Japan’s foreign policy.
Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) shakes hand with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe
during his trip to Tokyo in October 8, 2018
Both countries first established diplomatic relations on September 21, 1973, and bilateral ties have since gone on to develop rapidly. In 1995, Japan became the first G7 country to welcome Vietnamese Party General Secretary Do Muoi on an official visit. Fourteen years later both countries established a strategic partnership. In 2011, Japan recognised Vietnam’s market economy status, while in May 2016, Vietnam was invited by the Far East country to attend the expanded G7 Summit. During State President Truong Tan Sang’s official visit to Japan in March 2014, both sides boosted relations to an extensive strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia.
Bilateral relations are currently at their best level ever and enjoy a high degree of reliability. Senior leaders of the two countries have maintained regular visits and are in frequent contact at regional and international forums. Most notably, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Vietnam four times, in November 2006, January 2013, January 2017, and November 2017.
Meanwhile, Japan welcomed General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong on an official visit in September 2015, State President Tran Dai Quang in May 2018, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc several times in May 2016, June 2017, October 2018, June 2019, and October 2019, and National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan in December 2012.
Both sides have also maintained important co-operation mechanisms, including the Vietnam-Japan Cooperation Committee, the Vietnam-Japan Strategic Partnership Dialogue on diplomacy, security, and defence, the Vietnam-Japan defence policy dialogue, the security dialogue, the Vietnam-Japan Joint Committee on Cooperation in Industry, Trade and Energy, the agriculture dialogue, and the Vietnam - Japan Environmental Policy Dialogue.
According to the Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Vu Hong Nam, over the past 50 years both countries have become close and reliable partners within the framework of the extensive strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia.
As such, Japan has made an important contribution to the country’s economic development and vice versa, Vietnam has also made a great contribution to the Japanese economy. Over the past 10 years, mutual ties have undergone strong development, from economics, investment, and trade, to people-to-people exchanges, especially under former PM Abe’s administration.
All of this indicates that the ongoing partnership has become a model for a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship which has created a firm foundation for stronger co-operation for stability and peace in Southeast Asia, as well as the wider region, according to the ambassador.
At present, Japan represents one of the country’s most significant economic partners and was the first G7 member to recognise the market status of the Vietnamese economy. Indeed, it is the nation’s largest ODA donor, the second largest investor, the third largest tourism partner, and the fourth largest trade partner.
Both countries have given each other most favoured nation status since 1999, with import-export turnover between January and September of this year reaching a total of US$28.6 billion, of which US$14 billion came from exports. As of September, Japan had 4,595 valid FDI projects in Vietnam capitalised at US$59.87 billion, ranking second among 136 countries and territories investing in the country.
Japan is also largest provider of loans in Yen to Vietnam, with the total loan value as of December 2019, standing at 2,578 billion Yen, equivalent to approximately US$23.76 billion and accounting for 26.3% of the country’s total capital that the Japanese government has signed with foreign partners.
Elsewhere, agricultural co-operation has also been given special attention. The two countries signed a mid- and long-term vision on agricultural co-operation in September 2015, before signing a revised vision in May 2018.
Since 1992 to the present, Vietnam has gone on to send many trainees to Japan. Currently Vietnam ranks first among foreign countries to send trainees to Japan, numbering more than 230,000. The two sides have signed a memorandum of understanding on the admission of Vietnamese nurses and orderlies, with Vietnam so far sending 470 nurses and orderlies to Japan.
Co-operation in education and training also represents a bright spot in bilateral relations. Japan is one of the largest non-refundable aid donors for the Vietnamese education system, and both sides have signed many co-operation documents in this field. At present, the number of Vietnamese students in Japan stands at more than 80,000 people.
Currently, Japan is in the process of upgrading four Vietnamese universities as a means of meeting higher tertiary education standards and generating high-quality human resources in the fields of science-technology, management, and service.
Most notably both sides have signed more than 70 documents to increase co-operation between their localities. Major typical co-operation partnerships include Ho Chi Minh City – Osaka, Ho Chi Minh City – Nagano, Da Nang – Sakai, Hanoi – Fukuoka, Da Nang – Yokohama, Ho Chi Minh City – Yokohama, Hue – Kyoto, Hai Phong – Niigata, and Can Tho - Hyogo.
The impending official visit by PM Yoshihide Suga and his wife is taking place at a time when the extensive strategic partnership between Vietnam and Japan is developing in a strong and sustainable manner across many fields. PM Suga’s decision to choose Vietnam as the destination for his first overseas trip after being sworn in a month ago indicates that the Japanese side attaches great importance to strengthening relations with Vietnam, an emerging economy in the Asia-Pacific region.
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